New York City is known for its urban wildlife. There is the famous Pizza Rat, as well as Flood Rat, Cigarette Cockroach and Egg Roll Squirrel. Now Subway Raccoons can be added to the list. These adorable trash pandas are the cause of a growing number of train delays, and they appear to be getting bolder, given their forays onto subway platforms. Causing delays may be a problem, but perhaps straphangers can learn to respect hardworking raccoons waiting for a train, just trying to get to work.
Carolyn Maloney vs. the White House
Rep. Carolyn Maloney is the latest New Yorker to take on a prominent role in the impeachment inquiry. Following the death of Rep. Elijah Cummings in October, House Democrats voted to make Maloney the new chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, of which she was the most senior member. Maloney, the first woman to hold the position, had been serving as its temporary chairwoman. Although the House Intelligence Committee has taken the lead on impeachment, Maloney’s new role puts her in charge of one of the other two committees that are deeply involved in the inquiry. The third, the House Judiciary Committee, is led by fellow New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler, giving the Empire State an outsized voice in the proceedings.
Bloomberg files for president
Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has all but officially declared his entry in the Democratic presidential primary by filing with the Federal Election Commission. The move comes after Bloomberg filed to put his name on the ballot in five early deadline states, which he had characterized as keeping his options open while he continued to deliberate – which technically, his spokespeople say he’s still doing. Bloomberg started the week by apologizing for his support of stop-and-frisk policing, which was declared unconstitutional because of how it targeted minority New Yorkers. The apology was interpreted as an attempt to mend fences with black voters. He also issued a mea culpa through a surrogate for past sexist statements. Should he officially declare, Bloomberg would have a lot of catching up to do before the first caucus in Iowa in February.
Cuomo’s JCOPE headache
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has found himself entangled in a new scandal having to do with Joseph Percoco. Early this year, the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics held a confidential vote on whether it would investigate the former Cuomo aide. According to state law, those deliberations were meant to be kept private. However, someone reportedly provided Cuomo with information about the closed-door vote. According to the Times Union, Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie’s executive counsel, Howard Vargas, reached out to one of the commissioners, informing her that Cuomo was aware of how she voted. The state inspector general’s office investigated the alleged leak, but could not confirm whether it had occurred. JCOPE has since decided not to release the letter from the state inspector general’s office regarding its probe. The entire affair has led to some lawmakers renewing their calls to revamp the state’s ethics agency.
NYC’s ban on flavored e-cigarettes
After New York recorded its second vaping illness-related death, the New York City Council reached an agreement to pass a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, including those that are menthol-flavored. The body is expected to pass the legislation on Tuesday, after which Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to sign it into law. Once it becomes official, New York City will become the most populous municipality to impose such a ban. The council will not, however, vote on a related measure to prohibit regular menthol cigarettes, amid concerns from some advocates that such a move would criminalize the black community and lead to more police harassment.
Housing discrimination on Long Island
A three-year investigation by Newsday revealed widespread and chronic discrimination in the real estate industry on Long Island, one of the most segregated suburbs in the country. Through interactions with more than 90 real estate agents, reporters found a significant number of agents working for major brokerages engaged in discriminatory practices, including directing prospective buyers to certain neighborhoods based on race, potentially in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The report led to swift calls for action by a variety of lawmakers. State Attorney General Letitia James said she would investigate the alleged practices, while the state Senate announced it would hold a hearing on the matter. Gov. Andrew Cuomo also directed state agencies to launch a joint probe.
Council staffers seek to unionize
Legislative staff members at the New York City Council have formally launched a unionization effort, starting with a card campaign to gather the necessary support to be recognized. The move comes after more than 100 current and former staffers sent a letter to the City Council expressing disappointment to body that it did not expel City Councilman Andy King for his abusive behavior toward his employees. It also comes shortly after two separate analyses of staff pay revealed extreme disparity among council members, as well as low wages for people who work extensive overtime. Leaders of the organizing effort are trying to institute baseline standards for pay, regardless of which member someone works for, and additional workplace protections. Although City Council Speaker Corey Johnson expressed support for the organizers, he has not yet committed to voluntarily recognizing the union, should it gain enough support.